Rumors swirling on social networks about a real-life purge -- where a band of psychopaths go around and commit mass murder -- coming to Philadelphia are as fake as the film on which they’re based.
Still, local law enforcement agencies are being warned to be prepared for any issues.
Fliers showing masked men and women holding a machete over Friday’s date, August 22, have been bouncing around online for the past few days.
The imagery comes from the Universal Pictures film “The Purge: Anarchy.” (Universal is a sister company of NBC10.) In the horror flick, the U.S. government sanctions one night out of the year where a “purge” can take place. People participating in the bloody event can commit almost any crime without prosecution.
The notion of a killing spree, obviously, unnerved some:
NBC10.com has learned that a bulletin has been circulating among local law enforcement agencies making them aware of the social chatter. The bulletin advised officers to be on heightened alert in light of the unrest and tensions in Ferguson, Missouri.
But the Philly "purge" is all simply a hoax.
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The rumor-debunking website Snopes outlined the origins of the online hysteria, writing that it appears the first posts came out of Louisville, Kentucky, where a purge was set supposedly to take place last Friday.
The rumors reached such a fervor in that city that school events were canceled, attendance was down at the state fair and the city’s police fielded 20 percent more calls than normal, according to the town’s major newspaper. Officials believe that the hoax, which appears to have been started by a high school student, had a negative economic impact.
Friday night came and went without issue, all while the fake event spread to other cities across the country.
A spokesperson for Philadelphia Police says the department has heard of no credible "purge" plans for this Friday. Still, officials say personnel are being reminded to remain vigilant.
Regardless of whether police are on heightened alert or not, we can chalk this entire rumor up to a “vortex of stupidity” that at times takes hold online.
Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, email@example.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.